Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you.Frances H. Kakugawa

Dear Frances,

I’m one of the elders who still open doors. When a young man opened the door for my wife recently, she told him, “Thank you for being a gentleman. Your grandmother taught you well.”

She explained to me that after we’re gone, no one’s going teach our young children to live like gentlemen. Hope she’s wrong.


Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Frank,

I was recently behind an elderly woman who was approaching a bookshop with her cane. She didn’t see me and shut the door. Realizing later that someone was behind her, she waited and put her hand on my shoulder and apologized as though she had committed a major crime. She felt so badly that I had to reassure her that I often do the same thing when my mind is on a hundred other things. I thanked her for being so aware. Could she have been your wife?

I also want to tell you about another woman who cut out last month’s column on this topic and posted it on her refrigerator. Her reason? Young people don’t like to hear us lecture about such matters, so she posts things on the refrigerator so the young people in her family will read it when they open the frig to get something. Maybe we ought to change “Dear Frances” to “Dear Refrigerator.”

Thank you, Frank, for continuing our conversations on why we need our elders.


Dear Frances,

My father is in hospice care. We have not been close during all these years and we have not discussed his wishes after death. I felt so uncomfortable that I asked his minister to get this information for me. He did. My father wants to be buried and he voiced strongly that he does not want to be cremated. I told my sister about my father’s wishes and she strongly disagreed with me. She wants him cremated because it will cost less and it’ll be simpler. She even added she could use the money saved. Money is not a problem. I feel caught. I hate to create problems with my sister since she’s my only sibling. Please keep this anonymous.


Dear “Trina,”

I am referring you to a public service announcement I did for Kokua Mau. It can be viewed at

The video I am referring you to is titled “Breaking the Ice.” It covers end of life issues openly and rationally.

My message is simple: You are not fulfilling your wishes; you are respecting your father’s wishes. There is no decision for you and/or your sister to make — your father has already made it. Your message to your sister can be stated in this manner: Father wants to be buried, so we are going to respect his wishes. Had you not asked for that conversation between his minister and your father, you and your sister might have been able to make a decision for him after he died. But that did not happen. He clearly communicated his wishes to his minister.

Be sure to check his private papers, as he may have purchased a burial plot or made arrangements. Perhaps his minister could have another conversation with your father.


Dear Frances,

I’m being burnt out caring for my husband and would like to get some help from adult day care, but he refuses to go. Do you have any suggestions?


Dear Sallie,

This worked for my mother: Instead of saying “adult day care,” I told her that the doctor wants her to go to this “exercise place.” She was familiar with the word “exercise,” so she accepted it. I was ready to tell her: “If you don’t go to this exercise place, you might have to go to the hospital.” My mother respected doctors as professionals, so hearing the word “Doctor” also helped her accept her new venture.

Another caregiver told her mother that she was needed at this work place as a volunteer. She happily attended day care because she once worked outside of her home. Her caregiver-daughter arranged for the daycare staff to have her mother do some minor tasks such as folding laundry or passing out snacks. While my mother was at daycare, and later at the nursing facility, I took their washed and dried laundry and gathered a few ladies to fold towels and pillowcases.

Returning to your situation . . . What would motivate your husband? I know one caregiver who arranged to have her husband lead the group in singing since he loved to sing.

Use some creativity to replace the term, “Adult Day Care,” and see if you can find a lure from among your husband’s personal interests. Saying “I want you to go to adult day care because I need a break” won’t do it. It has to be for his benefit. Our use of language can make such a difference. Let us know if this works.


Readers . . . have you ever gone through your loved ones’ belongings after they’re gone?

In my mother’s drawers, I found every Mother’s Day card she had received from my siblings and me. Included among them were handwritten thank you letters from her physician. These letters told me that my mother had regularly dropped off orchids and papayas from the farm where she worked. I sent these letters back to her doctor — he was so touched that my mother had kept each one.

Allow me to share a poem I wrote after observing two people exchange phone numbers. They deftly added numbers to their Smartphones.


When I am dead, my dearest,

Will you draw a Sharpie marker

Through my name, write DEAD in bold caps

Or simply press Delete

To eradicate me forever?

Or will you preserve my name under “K”

And years from now . . .

On a cold, wintry afternoon when friends

Have deserted you and boredom sets in,

You flip through your address book and pause

at “K”

Under the slow-changing day into night, my

name appears.

You say my name and soon stories appear and

you smile and even chuckle

When there was a me and a you.

Perhaps memories will take you to a shoe box

labeled FHK

In a spider-webbed corner of the garage.

You find old, faded match covers. Match covers?

Yes, match covers. You flip one open and see

faded numbers.

Is it a hurriedly written phone number of a

handsome stranger I once met

In a coffee shop or in a bar? Did I call that

number and did a story begin?

Should you play sleuth and call that number? He must be long gone by now.

Are there match covers in other garages?

A shoe box of mysteries keeps you awake until dawn.

Ah ha . . . and you thought I was gone forever.

© Frances Kakugawa


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